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How ASCAP And BMI Are Harming Up-And-Coming Singers

from the shakedown dept

When we talk about problems with copyright and royalty systems, sometimes people suggest that we should make an exception for the collections societies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC that get performance royalties for songwriters, saying that since the money goes to the songwriters, rather than the labels, it's okay. However, ASCAP and the others cause significant problems. We've already discussed how they create problems, and how their views are outdated and damaging for songwriters.

However, it keeps getting worse, as they get more and more desperate to collect money -- and they're doing so in a way that harms songwriters much more than helps them.

ASCAP and BMI have been aggressively targeting venues that hold open mic nights, and demanding they pay huge fees. Many venues have given up and simply stopped allowing any musicians to play at all. In fact, one made every musician sign a waiver that they would only play original songs, and ASCAP told him it didn't matter because there was no way to know if the singers were really avoiding copyrighted music, so he still needed to pay up for a license. Those that pay up then often feel they need to charge a cover fee, so attendance dwindles.

It's basically making it more difficult for the next generation of musicians to get started, and ASCAP is so blind to this they don't even know what they're talking about. In response to the article, an ASCAP representative claims:
"What gives anyone the right to use someone else's property, even though they're not making money on it? I can guarantee you the phone company's going to charge you whether you're making money or not."
First off, this shows an ignorance of what is and is not "property." It also shows no concept of the larger picture of how using copyright to limit singers from appearing is harming artists. As for the non sequitur about the phone company... it's not clear what that has to do with anything.

It's time for musicians to start realizing that these societies do not have the songwriters' best interests in mind.

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  1. identicon
    Joe Ryan, 17 Aug 2009 @ 11:23am

    Another great club thinking of ening music

    Our local club, and great open mic / entertainmment establishment Bernice's Tavern in Chicago is getting has already been shook down for nearly 500 dollars, now sesac is going to take the place to court. I think we lost another great place to perform because of these shake-downs

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